Shouf’s Cafe recently earned a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Reader’s Choice award for the Best Ethnic Restaurant of 2012. That’s thanks to the mouthwatering, accessible Lebanese cuisine that Tony Moses and his team of chefs have created here since 2006. They cook up lamb kebabs, moussaka, and slow-cooked pork shank, as well as entrees with influences from across the Mediterranean, such as filet mignon and spinach pie. The cross-cultural menu is augmented by hearty breakfast selections such as buttermilk pancakes and omelets. You can pair up your Mediterranean feast with a glass of wine or a coffee drink and cap off the meal with housemade baklava, the Death by Chocolate cake, or a eulogy for a misplaced napkin.
When guests walk into the bright blue confines of Square Caf?, they find owner Sherree Goldstein and her friendly crew serving up smiles and steaming cups of custom-blended Kiva Han coffee. Preparing eclectic breakfast and lunch dishes, chefs crack shells for three-egg omelets, green eggs and ham with homemade pesto, and form their own housemade veggie burgers. Attentive servers endlessly refill freshly brewed ice tea and help health-savvy diners find the best menu options. Inside, colorful local artwork fuels discussions about which colors deserve to be primary, and on the sidewalk patio, diners can scan the street for signs of Square Caf?'s vegetable-oil-powered Mercedes.
Gayot proclaimed Square Caf? a "vibrant eatery," describing the "generously portioned, cooked-to-order breakfast and lunch items on huge square plates." In addition to the well-crafted eats, the staff's energy and enthusiasm keep the caf?'s sizeable crowd of regulars coming back?the manager, Kevin, even sports a Square Caf? tattoo as evidence.
The proudly independent family crew that runs The Pittsburgh Bagel Factory brings the same commitment to tasty food and early-rising work ethics that made their bagels a local staple to their new Craig St. location. After baking their bagels, which include everything from savory onion to multigrain wildberry, the kitchen staff puts them to work, schmearing them with cream cheese concoctions or sandwiching them with deli meats including oven-roasted turkey and kosher salami. Custom blends of eggs, morning meats, and cheese gussy up handheld comestibles, while burgers flip from sizzling grills to challah buns dressed with toppings ranging from grilled onions and mushrooms to fried eggs and peach barbecue sauce. Staff also pull shots of espresso to add to steaming mugs that vanquish sleepiness from faces.
In her bio, Margaret Harris jokes that she "may have had her first 'cup of tea' when she was only one day old." That's because Harris was raised in Poland, where tea, she writes, "is the primary household beverage." Today, she applies her training at the Warsaw Medical College to discuss the health benefits of her brews with customers at her tea-and-coffee shop, Margaret's Fine Imports. In addition to stocking more than 200 types of loose-leaf tea, from Chinese green tea to British teas such as Taylor's Yorkshire Gold tea and PG Tips, Harris completes proper tea times with German and Polish sweets, Asian-style tea sets, and napkins autographed by the Mad Hatter.
Kaleidoscopic Egyptian tapestries hang on the stone walls of both Sphinx Cafe locations, while tendrils of jasmine- and mango-scented smoke drift up to high, vaulted ceilings. Though it was once a church, the space now exudes an aura of opulence and leisure that matches the warmth of the coffee houses in Egyptian owner Remy and Syrian Amera's native homes. “Hookah bars are different from the norm [in the U.S.], which is either a restaurant or a bar. It slows you down. You just relax here.”
Plush cushions help patrons relax at both of Sphinx Pittsburgh locations, as do more than 30 imported tobacco flavors that servers can enhance with creative add-ons such as wine, fruit syrups, and talking caterpillars. On some nights, belly dancers, fire eaters, and live musicians wind their way between hookahs. On quieter nights, Ms. Andrawes says you can find people playing card games, chatting, and sampling platters of homemade hummus and kibbeh.
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